A social question for the Commission
A paper re-examining the current policy of excluding social criteria when purchasing timber has been produced by the Office of Government Commerce (OGC), the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), and the Central Point for Expertise on Timber procurement (CPET), and has been submitted to the European Commission.
The issues examined in the paper relate to the recognition of and respect for legal, customary and traditional rights; mechanisms for dispute resolution and freedom of workers to organise and negotiate. These are internationally recognised as being integral to sustainable forest management.
Considering local communities, forest dependent people or indigenous people is not part of the UK Government’s model contract specification, which is used when purchasing sustainably produced timber. This omission was prompted by an interpretation of procurement law which is now viewed by many as out of touch with sustainable development objectives.
The EU procurement Directive 2004/18/EC (applicable to public sector purchases) neither explicitly permits nor prohibits the inclusion of social criteria in product quality standards, though the Commission’s current guidance clearly indicates that the protection of forest-dependent people is not a relevant matter for public sector contract requirements.
However, other European states, including the Netherlands and Denmark, have included social criteria and there are several recent legal opinions that suggest it may be possible to do so.
The European Commission is considering the Government’s paper and a response is expected soon.